The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) on 9 October 2015 demanded that Government’s devolution plans must include communities, neighbourhoods and parishes through the publication of its Devo Local paper.
At the moment the Government’s Devolution Deals are agreements to devolve powers and spending on public services away from Whitehall departments to local areas. These areas are represented by consortiums of local principal (county, district, unitary or borough) authorities, coming together on a county-wide or sub-regional basis.
The devolution genie is well and truly out of the bottle. How and where decisions are made is now of much greater importance, with the home nations, cities, counties and towns demanding a greater decentralisation of power from Whitehall.
And not before time. But a debate still rages about how devolution can best be achieved, and how far subsidiarity should go.
The government has recognised that more power, decision-making and fiscal autonomy needs to be devolved to English cities and non-metropolitan areas, with 38 areas submitting devolution proposals to government and a Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill making its way through parliament to provide the framework to deliver these ambitions.
But while these steps are welcome, this next phase of localism is by no means localist enough, nor is it bold enough. Devolution must not stop at the combined authority, county or district level.
It is because we want to help the government deliver on these ambitions that we have developed this ‘white paper’, which builds upon our manifesto ideas and sets out a further range of proposals to support devolution by empowering and strengthening the most local level of democracy, community organising and social action in England – local (parish and town) councils.
Proposals, which stake out the territory for a ‘parish deal’; a package of measures for the government to take forward as part of its approach to decentralisation, putting communities in control through stronger local democracy and with fairer funding and more powers and helping to improve the social and economic vitality of their areas.
Despite the significant challenges public services and local government face, there has probably never been a better opportunity to decentralise and devolve more power to local councils, and to build a ‘localist powerhouse’ with the capacity, ambition and creativity to
transform local areas.
We want to work in partnership with the government, principal councils and with other stakeholders to turn the ideas and proposals in this white paper into a reality and deliver devolution to neighbourhoods and communities in all parts of the country.
Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC, said: “ We will undoubtedly miss a trick if we overlook the neighbourhood level and do not put communities in control of their areas: building community capacity and engagement; enhancing local democracy and participation; and widening opportunities for neighbourhood level service delivery. Simply put, we need to put the local into devolution.”